Mar 05, 2024
POSTED BY: Nicholas Venditti

What Is a Shotgun Start in Golf?

Most golfers enjoy playing in tournaments, whether for competition, charity, or just for fun. So, what's a shotgun start? You've probably heard of tee-off, which many professional tournaments, like the PGA tour or the DP World Tour, use.

In the shotgun start, all players are assigned to a hole and simultaneously begin playing. This allows all players to finish around the same time. Keep reading to learn the history of the shotgun start, how it works, variations of it, and the pros and cons. 

Why Do They Call It a Shotgun Start in Golf?

The history of the shotgun start is quite simple. A 2004 article by Golf Digest explains how, in a golf tournament in Walla Walla, Washington, a shotgun was fired off by head pro Jim Russell to start the tournament. The shotgun sound could be heard by players across the course, signaling them to start playing.

Since then, other forms of sound makers have been utilized by courses such as safer air horns or sirens. However, some courses prefer a more authentic approach and still use a shotgun, usually with blanks, as their signal sound. Understanding different tournament styles and golf etiquette can help you shoot a lower score

How Does a Shotgun Start Work?

A shotgun start is a type of golf tournament. Typically, each hole will start with a foursome of players. For 18 holes, this accommodates up to 72 players at once. Once the shotgun, or sound maker, is fired, each group starts at the same time. They will also finish around the same time. Tournament organizers create a tee sheet to assign holes and tee times before it starts. While this style of tournament may be shorter than other formats, you should still practice regularly to prepare for it. 

What Is a Reverse Shotgun Start?

A variation of the more traditional start, the purpose here is to play an even faster round of golf. It's also used when there are fewer than 18 groups to play. Instead of a group being assigned to each hole, the first group will be assigned to the first hole. Then, groups will be assigned in reverse order and play forward. The second group to the 18th hole, the third group to the 17th hole, the fourth group to the 16th hole, and so on. The course can then open after everyone has passed through the first hole. 

What Is a Double Shotgun Start?

Another variation, this format is used when there are too many players in a tournament. On par-4 or par-5 holes, two groups are assigned. Group A and Group B. Group A tees off first. After all have played, they walk to their balls down the fairway. Once Group A is far enough away, Group B can tee off. Since these holes take longer to play, no group is in the way of another. 

What Are the Pros and Cons of a Shotgun Start?


The shotgun start has become increasingly popular in recent courses. Since this type of tournament has all players starting at the same time, they will finish at the same time. Some tournaments have other activities on the agenda, such as a meal or an awards ceremony. This efficiency is why a shotgun start is popular for scrambles and charity events. These tournaments are open to everyone, even if you wouldn't consider yourself good at golf, but a few tips, tricks, and practice can get you prepared fast.

Time efficiency is another benefit of this type of tournament. An alternative tournament has everyone start at the first hole in 10-minute tee intervals. If a large group is playing, it could take several hours for all players to make it through the first hole. The first set of players will finish well before the last set of players. The tournament takes less time for the players and the golf course. Further, a popular course can accommodate many more players at popular tee times. This is perfect for those players wanting to spend their early weekend morning out on the green.

Further, a more level playing field is maintained. The weather will be the same for each player. In other tournaments, some players may start with advantageous weather, while others may be out of luck later in the day. These types of advantages are minimized during a shotgun start, making the game fairer for everyone. 


There are many benefits to a shotgun start tournament, but there are a few reasons why you might not want to play in one. Oftentimes, courses have an intentionally designed layout. The order of holes can mean that on some courses, players will have easier holes in the beginning. Then, the second half will be more challenging, or the other way around, with the first half being harder. In this style of tournament, golfers will start at different hole difficulties, which can throw some off of their game. It is uncommon to start an 18-hole course with a 3-par hole, but for the shotgun tournament, some players will have to. 

On this note, some players may have shorter commutes to their starting holes. The 1st and 10th holes are likely closer to the clubhouse, while others will have to go to the corners of the course. At the end of the tournament, players will end near their initial hole and have to make the commute back to the clubhouse. Courses should offer golf carts for transportation as walking is not practical or fair on these farther away holes. On the other hand, if everyone starts at the 1st hole in intervals, everyone will finish back at the clubhouse on the 18th hole. 

While these tournaments are popular for charity events, some competitive players do not like them. Since the shotgun start is associated as a more recreational tournament with these events, it can come across as less competitive. More competitive players want to play at high competing levels, and the shotgun start does not typically offer that experience for them. Most professional tournaments, like the PGA tour, use a tee-off start. The shotgun start is more popular for amateur tournaments. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is a Shotgun Round in Golf?

Most often, shotgun rounds are hosted for charity events or when an awards ceremony is hosted afterward. In this tournament, players are put into groups of four, assigned a hole to start on, and simultaneously begin. All groups start at the same time, allowing for all groups to finish around the same time. 

How Many Golfers Can Play With a Shotgun Start?

There are 18 holes in a course. Each hole can have four players assigned to it. A total of 72 players can participate. Sometimes there are less than 72 players. In this instance, a reverse shotgun start can be used. This variation accommodates smaller groups of players. 

Which Hole Do You Start at in a Shotgun Start

The hole a player starts on is determined by the tournament hosts. Players are put into groups of four. That group is assigned a random hole to start on. You might start on the 1st hole or the 13th hole and play through all 18 holes. 

Final Thoughts

Whether you're new to the sport or play every weekend, all golfers should have general knowledge about the different tournament formats. One you are likely to encounter if you play or plan to play in golf tournaments is a shotgun start. This tournament format offers many advantages for players and courses. Familiarizing yourself with the ins and outs of this format can prepare you to play in one.

Arrive at your shotgun start tournament, ready to compete and have fun with Stitch Golf’s gear and apparel.